THE EDITOR: Should foreign policy decisions regarding border control be left to the Executive or to the Parliament? The question comes in the wake of the announcement last week by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the almost total destruction of Dominica, said that “Government is prepared to waive the necessary immigration laws to allow for stays of six months at a time.”
The praise which Rowley received for his expressed compassion was met with equally fierce criticism by people commenting via media, including social media, questioning, among other things, whether it really was a case of empathy.
In his post-Cabinet briefing, Rowley proposed that “we waive or encourage in such a way that a number of Dominicans who can find contact in TT and make their way to Trinidad and Tobago and find a household that can accept them, we will waive all restrictions for the next six months to any citizen of Dominica,” which gives a borderline impression that the Prime Minister wishes to allow those seeking refuge to enter TT as refugees would.
There is a marked difference, however, between a refugee, defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence,” and people seeking refuge.
It seems that in this case Rowley’s olive branch was a free and unconditional invitation to citizens of Dominica, irrespective of race, religion or criminal record and that TT would not be taking in refugees as some may think, but rather temporary migrants to our shores.
Putting aside all the comments, both for and against the PM’s initiative, the question remains as to whether the TT Government should unilaterally take such a decision, or whether the matter is one that the Parliament should determine.
Just like when the British Government gave its people the right to decide on Brexit — a move which, in part, would have similar consequences regarding the cross-border movement of people — is this not a matter which calls for a parliamentary debate, in the public domain?
Perhaps only when citizens of TT are able to hear the (hopefully) rational arguments put forward by their respective Members of Parliament could sense be separated from nonsense. Is it okay to leave such a decision solely to the Executive, against the backdrop of the poor state of the economy, inadequate administrative mechanisms that fail to accurately detect and determine how many foreigners currently reside in TT outside the confines of the law?
Further, the lack of clarity by the Prime Minister in “lowering the drawbridge” leaves several questions to be answered. Or is it a case where the people, via their elected representatives, should decide what is best for the people of both TT and, by extension, our Dominican neighbours?
RALPH DEONARINE via e-mail